January 21st, 2010
03:39 PM ET

Supreme Court eases restrictions on corporate campaign spending

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/12/16/scotus.journal/story.court.cnn.jpg width=300 height=169]

Bill Mears
CNN Supreme Court Producer

The Supreme Court has given big business, unions and nonprofits more power to spend freely in federal elections, a major turnaround that threatens a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.

A 5-4 conservative majority crafted a narrow overhaul of federal campaign spending Thursday that could have an immediate effect on this year's congressional midterm elections. The justices eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions in political campaigns.

"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."

The opinion radically alters the election calculus, offering greater spending flexibility for a broader range of for-profit and nonprofit groups seeking a voice in the crowded national political debate.

Hours after the ruling, President Obama responded, saying the court has given "the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington - while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates."

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Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Tim Gibson

    Dumb and Dumber, the sequel.

    January 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  2. Cindy

    This was a ridiculous ruling. It now opens up the door for all of the special interest groups to get into the election and sway the votes to favor their companies.


    January 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm |